Wonky Bus V – The Stranglers/FiB in Holland Nov 20/21 2015.
Where to start…
Well the start itself would be as good a place as any…
But wait; let us backtrack a bit…
A dark wet Thursday afternoon somewhere in the South of London, Tooting to be precise, Sree Krishna South Indian Restaurant to focus in a little more. Zoom in on three diners quietly partaking of nourishment:
Bella: “There’s a spare place on Wonky, you up for it?”
A glance passes around the table as the three mutually arrive at the tacit understanding that this could work.
Dibdab: “Well I’m not working tomorrow, so no reason why not!”
EiTC: “All it would take is two phone calls!”
Two phone calls later and it all started happening for the Wonky Stowaway. A mad dash hither and thither saw suitcases packed, passports collected and canines (Russel, Dougal and Rugal) temporarily rehoused. Then four hours kip before the journeys start.
Four hours Later…
Taxi to Victoria Station to meet up with 70 or so similarly obsessed souls to board the Wonky Bus and begin the journey to Holland
Spirits were high even at wtf o’ clock as we wound our way through the emerging dawn light to Dover, stopping off in the heart of Kent en-route to collect more Wonkyites.
A slow pass through Boarder Control (not hindered in any way by the fact that EiTC looks nothing like his passport photo, seriously nothing like! etc, Etc, EiTC) saw us miss our scheduled ferry and go out on the following one. A smooth outbound crossing saw FiB in every corner of the boat. A few of us headed out on to deck for fresh air (Diesel fumes and cigarette smoke in the main) where Missy Lou and Dibdab compared notes on stowaway technique.
In the blink of an eye (seemingly) we were back on the bus, winding from Calais through Belgium to eventually arrive at the beautiful Southern Netherlands city of Eindhoven. Check in was quick at the charming Best Western Hotel, where we were also joined by the North Dutch Posse – Evonx and Mirjam, who were staying at the same hotel. Off to the hotel room for a quick freshen up then out to the delightful Indiaas Restaurant Tajmahal Eindhoven for sustenance before heading back to the hotel in time for the 7pm Wonky departure to the gig.
Aboard the bus, spirits were once again high but in a certain corner on the back seat a mild panic set in, as realisation dawned that we had forgotten our gig tickets, in an almost identical incident to that of Lille last year. A quiet word with our great leader Mr Carne saw the problem resolved and minds put at ease (many thanks Sir O!). Then it was into the venue for tonight’s proceedings the legendary (honestly!) Effenaar.
A spacious capacious venue with a high ceiling that could have reasonably led to some concern over sound issues/echo etc… But this was not to be the case!
Up first Limburg natives No Man’s Valley took the stage with their patented blend of ‘energetic organ rock inspired by the record collection of their parents’. My guess is that their parents were at some time big fans of The Doors! And thank goodness for that!
The first number kicked off with a strong vocal, almost acapella but for a sparse rhythmic accompaniment, impressing the crowd immediately with superb vocal chops and atmosphere.
The band then took us on their musical journey backed up with their punchy drums and melodic guitar, keyboard and bass work. The sound in the Effenaar tonight was crystal clear and amazing.
While it would be unfair to just compare NMV with The Doors, it’s not a bad frame of reference to start with. This is a young band that is unapologetically inspired by the past while being also very much of the present with the energy, performance and creative power they bring to the show.
Not to be missed! Excellent!
We were now at escape velocity rocketing towards Strangling time…
Waltzinblack and they’re off…
With a set beginning not dissimilarly to the summer shows we get 7 stonking barnstormers comprising; Toiler, Straighten Out, Grip, I’ve Been Wild, Curfew, Relentless and Sleazy. With barely a chance to take a breath before we get an extended mellow section not unlike that of The Ruby Tour: Golden Brown, Always The Sun, (then a change of guitars for) Midnight Summer Dream/European Female!
Then it’s back to the electric for Baz as they slowly build the atmosphere back up with the awesome Freedom is Insane. Following this with crowd pleaser Time To Die, before coming back up to full speed with the pair of stonkers Norfolk Coast and I Feel Like A Wog. Two more classic hits in the shape of Skin Deep and Peaches before coming back up to the Mk4 – 3 eras with Time Was Once On My Side and Lost Control respectively. Duchess and No More Heroes and they’re done!
Back on for the encore with All Day and All of The Night followed by Tank and then it’s Goodnight Eindhoven!
That’s the set-list sorted, what about the performance?
Well the Stranglers themselves were on top form giving a performance of their usual high calibre, which saw them playing out of their skins. Dave was grinning madly and clearly enjoying himself as were JJ, Baz and Jim. The sound again was absolutely spot on, with all elements being clear and well balanced. The crowd were hanging on every note/beat.
The Wonkyites and many other non-wonky travellers were making the most of the moment and partying/pogoing/moshing/crowd-surfing like their lives depended on it (maybe something to do with Wonky Virgin Mohawk Dave being at large?), all in a good natured spirited manner. The locals were most welcoming to the visiting tribes as well as joining in with the fun and once again it was really great to be in this fantastic country! Of the surfers, Geordie Keith went over the top of the barrier and face planted with there being no-one there to catch him! Baz looked on concerned (as according to Pam, he was out cold for a while) and leaned over to see if he was okay, just then Keith regained consciousness rose up and planted a smacker on the top of Baz’s Bonce.
Then apres gig the house DJ spun many an Old School Punk/New Wave/Ska tune, which kept all and sundry happy right up until pumpkin time. After which it was back on the bus to the hotel, while some opted to stay on in the centre. Stories of all night drinking and revelry into the small hours came back in various reports. And some of these reports were evidenced by means of physical manifestation the following morning. Others opted for calmer pursuits such as meditation/levitation.
A bright start to the day in Eindhoven saw us up in time for breakfast, sustenance gratefully received following the previous night’s candle burning. The breakfast hall was buzzing with chatter about the previous night, the upcoming day, the sights of Eindhoven and even The Sons of The Desert…
The early blue skies had given way to rain and before long it was all aboard the Wonky Bus – destination Leiden. We sailed the old Black River for a smooth crossing, taking in such sights as windmills and dykes and maybe even the odd hill (which may actually have been a heap of soil on a building site), although the biggest reaction (incorporating whoops, cheers and pleas to turn right!) was reserved for the Heineken factory.
Before long we arrived at our hotel the charming IBIS Leiden Centre, opposite Leiden Centraal Railway Station, on what was a chilly, bright/showery afternoon. After dropping off bags, stopping off for tea and admiring windmills and Rainbows, a stroll in to town was next on the agenda. Taking in Music shops, restaurants, pubs and more, we scoped out the preferred venue for tonight’s dinner before heading back to base. Here we encountered more travellers in the shape of Lucy, Rio and Tom at the check-in desk and Mully and Kev around and about there somewhere too.
Then it was off to the delightful Selera Anda Indonesian restaurant for a dinner of flavoursome delights before returning to base to get gig-ready. By now the weather had deteriorated somewhat to a sleety chill.
7pm. saw us gather in reception for the march down to the venue en masse. Several splintered off along the way into various pubs and the like. Arriving at the venue, some opted to go straight in while others opted to see a little more of Leiden.
A small group of us gathered at the pub around the corner from the venue, where we were joined at times by many a gig bound traveller, stopping off to say hello or get some (dodgy) directions. One suave looking chap opted to join/charm us for a while and this dapper chappie turned out to be none other than Jezz Prenton, good to see you Sir! Sir Jason Apollo also turned up and stopped for a wee natter.
Feeling the bite of the chill weather and not wanting to miss the support act we made our way to the venue, Gebr. De Nobel, a smaller venue than last night comprising a square shaped dancefloor surrounded on three sides by three levels of balconies and on the fourth side by the stage itself, a very nice space indeed!
Arriving, as we did, in time to catch most of the set from tonight’s support act No Man’s Valley…
No Man’s Valley…
Another blistering set and by now the band could feel the love from the immigrants as lead singer Jasper Hesselink talked to the crowd in English and referenced The Stranglers quite a bit.
The sound was not as clear tonight as it had been in Eindhoven but it was still sounding great and went down a storm with the crowd.
Having the opportunity to see this band for a second consecutive night was a privilege indeed and underlined the already winning first impression with more proof of their quality as they delivered another solid performance. Fab stuff!
Another friendly Dutch audience tonight, stood shoulder to shoulder and side by side with the slightly bonkers Wonkers and other assorted tourists. Among them there were a few familiar faces in Black; Anna-Bunny, Dominique, Marcel, Jacqueline and Jan.
The lights dimmed and…
Waltzinblack, Toiler, Straighten Out, Grip, I’ve Been Wild, Curfew, Relentless, Nice n Sleazy, Golden Brown, Always The Sun, Midnight Summers Dream, European Female, Freedom is Insane, Time to Die, Norfolk Coast, I Feel Like a Wog, Skin Deep, Peaches, Time Was Once On My Side, Lost Control, Duchess and No More Heroes rounded out the main set. (Try saying that in one breath… “That!”… Alright smartarse! etc Etc EiTC)
Walk on By (Sublime), All Day and All of The Night (Most I’ve ever enjoyed this one) and Tank!
The MiB were on fine form tonight for this, the end of their European tour. While the sound was not as clear as last night’s, it was still superb and Baz, Dave, Jim and JJ delivered the goods most convincingly with style, panache and just a little dash of menace.
At the end of the set the band took bows and came forward to thank and shake hands with the crowd, a nice touch!
During the previous night at Eindhoven Baz had asked the Dutch what they thought of the Mad English crowd which while getting a good reaction also provoked a bit of a backlash from the non-English Wonkyites and travellers. This was taken into consideration tonight as Baz made amends and then he and JJ took delivery of Scottish and Welsh flags amid much mirth and merriment before bursting into an impromptu rendition of The Bonny Banks O’ Loch Lomond. Superb!
The crowd were once again lively and up for it with some creative surfing, at one point TBC must have been aloft for at least a couple of minutes!
On Peaches the night before in Eindhoven ‘worse places to be’ culminated in ‘Down in The Sewer or even Inside Barry Spooners Mind’ whereas tonight Baz refined it to the more poetic couplet ‘Down in The Sewer or sharing a bunk with Barry Spooner…’ Gold!
A few stayed on for more drinks and dancing at the venue before heading out to pubs and bars for shenanigans lasting well into the wee small hours, in spite of the 9.30 am departure time the following morning (which in some cases turned out to be in an hour or so!). While others again dispersed here and there. We once again opted for Levitation! Top night!
The 9:30 am departure time saw us rising early in time to make breakfast before the off. A lot of the crowd were looking well and truly shell-shocked and somewhat lived in this morning, having been partying for the best part of two days now.
We said our goodbyes to those that were staying on and those going back by other methods. Campbell was flying back and hoping to make it home in time to catch Hugh Cornwell in Oran Mor.
All aboard the bus for the long drive back to Calais. Talk of closed borders at Belgium leading to possible delays didn’t materialise as we made it through to British Passport Control at Calais in good time. Once again EiTC’s dissimilarity to his passport caused some mirth/concern and I duly informed the lovely immigration officer that her fiver was in the post! In contrast to getting a later ferry on the way out, we got an earlier one on the way back, which was nice…
A spot of lunch and then a stroll around deck saw us catching up with FiB from one end of the boat to the other, and then spending the last part of the cruise on the aft deck before disembarking back in Dover. A striking and persistent sunset welcomed us back to Blighty as we crossed the Kent country side where we spotted these strange protrusions emanating up from the ground (hills).
London traffic saw our drivers improvising a little by diverting from the A2 on to the South Circular, allowing us to take in the sights of Sunny SE London (or home as Pidge would call it!); the uninitiated grabbed their purses a little tighter!
Before we knew it, we were back to civilisation (or South West London as it is known) as the bus pulled up to its final destination Victoria. A few farewells and we all went our separate ways, some home, some to the nearest pub etc Etc EiTC…
It’s now several days after and the senses are just beginning to return to their normal level of dysfunction. It’s been a fantastic, euphoric and at times emotional journey!
So to sum up a fab weekend in even fabber company!
Huge heartfelt thanks must go to The Stranglers and Owen and Jacquie Carne. (Without whom!).
Photos: EiTC and Dibdab.